Today I came across a news clipping from the Boston Transcript, which covered the fall of Charleston in February 1865. The paper reprinted a letter written by an officer in a Massachusetts regiment about a Charleston lawyer by the name of Nelson Mitchell. Turns out that the story is fairly well known. Luis F. Emilio also mentions Mitchell in his history of the 54th Massachusetts. I suspect the author of the letter served in the 54th or 55th since it is contained in the Norwood P. Hallowell Papers. One wonders where, if at all, Mitchell fits in with the Southern Heritage folks.
One of the things I enjoyed while living in Virginia was the opportunity to explore public spaces related to the Civil War. Whenever I traveled to a new city or town one of the first things I did was look for that Confederate soldier monument at a downtown intersection or on the courthouse grounds. There is something comforting about finding that monument – a present reminder of a distant past. Not so distant that we are transported back to the Civil War, but to that period between 1880 and 1920 as white southerners struggled to make sense of a past in the face of modernity. Those of us who approach these spaces are forced to confront our individual and collective need to remember as well as the consequences of forgetting.
“Brag Bowling, SCV member and Director of the Stephen D. Lee Institute, and Southern Poverty Law Center Research Director Mark Potok represent two sides of the contentious debate over a large and looming question: what was the Civil War really fought over?” As far as I can tell neither of them possesses any serious knowledge of Civil War history. They are, however, quite entertaining. The following clip is from an upcoming documentary titled, The Lost Cause: An Old War in the New South.
Today I found the following poem as a news clipping in a scrapbook contained in the Norwood P. Hallowell Papers, 1850-1914 at the Massachusetts Historical Society. It’s titled, “A Negro Volunteer Song” and was written by a private in Co. A, 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
Fremont told them when the war it first begun,
How to save the Union, and way it should be done;
But Kentucky swore so hard, and old Abe he had his fears,
Till every hope was lost but the colored volunteers.
Chorus—O, give us a flag, all free without a slave,
We’ll fight to defend it as our Fathers did so brave,
The gallant Comp’ny A will make the rebels dance,
And we’ll stand by the Union if we only have a chance.
McClellan went to Richmond with two hundred thousand
He said “keep back the niggers,” and the Union he would
Little Mac he had his way, still the Union is in tears,
Now they call for the help of the colored volunteers.
Chorus—O, give us a flag, &c.
Old Jeff says he’ll hang us if we dare to meet him armed,
A very big thing, but we are not all alarmed,
For he first has got to catch us before the way is clear,
And “that’s what’s the matter” with the colored volunteers.
Chorus—O, give us a flag, &c
So rally, boys, rally, let us never mind the past,
We had a hard road to travel but our day is coming fast,
For God is for the right and we have no need to fear,
The Union must be saved by the colored volunteer.
Chorus—O, give us a flag, &c
Looks like trouble in the Deep
South North over the display of the Confederate flag in a public high school. Earlier this week, school officials in Dowagiac, Michigan banned students from wearing clothing that displayed the Confederate flag. Tensions between black and white students have continued to mount since the decision. A number of students have been suspended and police now patrol the school grounds owing to the number of threats that have been made both online and at the school. The whole thing is utterly ridiculous and, in the end, it looks like school officials are to blame for allowing the is to get out of hand.